By Ron Leyba
Tim Duncan is easily one of the top 10 players of all time in the NBA. He has achieved almost anything: 5 championships, MVP, 3 finals MVP awards, 15 seasons with 50+ wins, making the playoffs in each of his season, and a lot more that requires a special article. However, he has never won a back to back title. Up until last year, the Spurs have not even been in back to back Finals. Can they go all to the end this year and capture that elusive back to back title? If they do, Duncan will have 6 rings, same as Michael Jordan and one more than Kobe Bryant.
How much have they improved in the offseason?
Critics may point to the fact that they didn’t sign any new players. However, the Spurs return 14 of their 15 players from last season. That is basically the whole team. The only new player is rookie Kyle Anderson. The Spurs tried to get Pau Gasol, but they failed. However, they managed to resign Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, and Tony Parker. They didn’t struck a deal with 2014 MVP Kawhi Leonard, but they get have the opportunity to match any offer he receives next summer. They made improvements in the coaching staff, bringing Ettore Messina and Becky Hammon. The first one is one of the most respected coaches in Europe, and Becky is a six time WNBA All Star.
Improvements from within
The Spurs are counting on continuous improvement from within their own players to carry them this year. It is well known that players perform better as time goes in Gregg Popovich’s offensive and defensive systems. Aron Baynes and Marco Belinelli should have even better season this year, especially Baynes. The Australian center had quite a showing at the World Cup, where he led the Boomers to elimination rounds. He posted averages of 16.8 points and 7 rebounds.
The minute’s management
One of the most important aspects in the way San Antonio plays is managing minutes of core players. Last year, the Spurs were the only team in the NBA where no player averaged more than 30 minutes per game. They have the depth, but Coach Popovich has created a system where players can easily perform and replace each other. If one player goes down, another role player comes in and does the job.
Who can stop them?
The Spurs look like they are on cruise control to start the season. At the moment, they are 2-3, outside of the playoffs, but they were plagued by injuries. Patty Mills is still out, Kawhi Leonard was out, Tiago Splitter was out. The West is again going to be crowed. Dallas has improved, the Clippers are better, the Warriors are clicking on all cylinders, and the Rockets look like a serious contender. And with OKC falling behind, a first or second seed might end up playing the Thunder in the first round. That can be no good. However, in the past two playoffs, the Spurs managed to exterminate every demon they had. They crushed the Grizzlies, they stopped the Thunder, they survived the Mavericks, and they schooled Portland. Realistically, their biggest threat this year might be the Warriors. Golden State looks excellent with the new offense coach Kerr has installed, and they are deep enough to compete for 7 games.